As you know, Marijuana or Cannabis is illegal drug in the US with medical properties that have made the subject of much recent research. With over 69 million Americans over the age of 12 who have tried Marijuana, it is by far the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States.
Did you know that:
- Marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including most of the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. Smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette. (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- Risk of a heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana. (Harvard University, Marijuana & Heart Attacks, Washington Post, 3/3/2000)
- Reaction time for motor skills, such as driving, is reduced by 41% after smoking one joint and is reduced 63% after smoking two joints.
Still, there is substantial belief that Marijuana is harmless or that it is valuable as a therapeutic drug for cancer, AIDS, or depression. There is some evidence that a synthetic cannabinoid derived from THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) named Dronabinol, can help with Alzheimer in the elderly. The most common reason for a “legal prescription” of Marijuana (the so-called medical marijuana legal in California) is to relieve pain.
Reuters today reported on a story that will make you cringe, though. Heavy marijuana use shrinks brain talks about a study published in the American Medical Association’s journal Archives of General Psychiatry by two Australian researchers looking at men who had smoked at least five joints a day for 20 years. Brain scans indicated their hippocampus and amygdala were smaller compared to nonusers:
The hippocampus regulates memory and emotion, while the amygdala plays a critical role in fear and aggression.
“These findings challenge the widespread perception of cannabis as having limited or no harmful effects on (the) brain and behavior,” said Murat Yucel of ORYGEN Research Centre and the University of Melbourne, who led the study. “Like with most things, some people will experience greater problems associated with cannabis use than others,” Yucel said in an e-mail. “Our findings suggest that everyone is vulnerable to potential changes in the brain, some memory problems and psychiatric symptoms if they use heavily enough and for long enough.”
Among the 15 heavy marijuana users in the study, the hippocampus volume was 12 percent less and the amygdala volume was 7 percent less than in 16 men who were not marijuana users, the researchers said.
Criticism of the study centers around the fact that these men are extremely heavy users; had they been smokers or alcoholics, the effects would certainly have been more pronounced. Note that I am not a medical doctor, and this cannot constitute medical advice, but my opinion on Marijuana would be to generally avoid it. It’s clear that it’s harmless in moderation and small amounts, but over time it seems as if it can have profound effects, dumbing down your brain and numbing your nervous system. What do you think? Is there a cost, and is it worth it?
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